4 other London estate eviction protests you should probably know about

Image: Getty.

Remember London's E15 mums? Or the New Era Estate? Last year, protests against forced evictions in Newham and Hackney respectively made headlines, helped along by the attention of celebrities such as the increasingly problematic Russell Brand.


In the end, both scored victories of a kind: the E15 mums won the right to leave the estate they were occupying on their own terms, and the borough agreed that the empty houses would be turned into homes for the homeless. The New Era Estate, meanwhile, was sold to an affordable housing provider. And everyone else turned back to looking at cute animals riding other cute animals on the internet.

But these stories didn't generate traction just because of their association with a longhaired libertine: they resonated because tales of Londoners forced out of their homes, or forced to leave the city altogether, have become so commonplace.

Hundreds of tenants and ex-tenants of estates around London are currently campaigning against evictions they believe to be unfounded, badly executed, or just plain unfair. Most want the right to be rehomed in the new development, or at least to be awarded new, permanent accommodation nearby. Here are just a few of them. 

 

The Aylesbury Estate, Elephant & Castle

Image: Mkimemia at Wikimedia Commons.

The Aylesbury is one of the largest social housing estates in Europe, but, like the nearby Heygate, it's earmarked for demolition prior to a £1.5bn regeneration project. Throughout February, protestors occupied parts of the estate as a way of fighting the evictions. On the 16th, six were arrested as police attempted to remove the final protesters from the property.

At time of writing, one block is still occupied, and residents are still appealing against Southwark's possession order. Updates on the situation are regularly published here.

Sweets Way, Barnet

This 160-house estate was cleared out in February pending its sale. The evictions have been particularly hard on young families, as most residents were moved to emergency housing in places like Waltham Forest, Enfield and Luton – areas nowhere near their schools or work. Other tenants, meanwhile, have no option except to declare themselves homeless 

This short documentary by filmmaker Barry Seddon documents the evictions and features several Sweets Way ex-residents:

 

West Hendon Estate, Barnet

Image: Our West Hendon

About 200 families face eviction from the estate at the end of March, as the site has been sold to Barratt Homes. At present, the council plans to rehome tenants in temporary accommodation, but not necessarily nearby. Residents held a day of action against the evictions in January, and the Unite community coordinator said at the time: 

We know from what happened at New Era that people can take on councils and the private landlords and win.

Community group Our West Hendon is also running a Change.org petition, calling for secure nearby residencies for rehoused tenants and/or the right for all members of the community to "remain and be rehoused on the West Hendon Estate". At time of writing, it has over 130,000 signatures.

Guinness Trust Estate, Brixton 

Image: Guinness Occupation

You know the story by now. The Guinness estate has been sold to developers, and the estate's tenants are due to be evicted this coming April. Now, 15 tenants are squatting in an empty flat on the estate in protest.

As in the other estates, campaigners are pushing for the right to be rehoused in the new development, or at least in permanent accommodation as close by as possible. In February, they won the right for tenants to apply for homes in London, but still plan to campaign against further evictions. You can find further information and updates on the Guinness Occupation evictions here.

 
 
 
 

Here’s a fantasy metro network for Birmingham & the West Midlands

Birmingham New Street. Image: Getty.

Another reader writes in with their fantasy transport plans for their city. This week, we’re off to Birmingham…

I’ve read with interest CityMetric’s previous discussion on Birmingham’s poor commuter service frequency and desire for a “Crossrail” (here and here). So I thought I’d get involved, but from a different angle.

There’s a whole range of local issues to throw into the mix before getting the fantasy metro crayons out. Birmingham New Street is shooting up the passenger usage rankings, but sadly its performance isn’t, with nearly half of trains in the evening rush hour between 5pm and 8pm five minutes or more late or even cancelled. This makes connecting through New Street a hit and, mainly, miss affair, which anyone who values their commuting sanity will avoid completely. No wonder us Brummies drive everywhere.


There are seven local station reopening on the cards, which have been given a helping hand by a pro-rail mayor. But while these are super on their own, each one alone struggles to get enough traffic to justify a frequent service (which is key for commuters); or the wider investment needed elsewhere to free up more timetable slots, which is why the forgotten cousin of freight gets pushed even deeper into the night, in turn giving engineering work nowhere to go at all.

Suburban rail is the less exciting cousin of cross country rail. But at present there’s nobody to “mind the gap” between regional cross-country focussed rail strategy , and the bus/tram orientated planning of individual councils. (Incidentally, the next Midland Metro extension, from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, is expected to cost £450m for just 11km of tram. Ouch.)

So given all that, I decided to go down a less glamorous angle than a Birmingham Crossrail, and design a Birmingham  & Black Country Overground. Like the London Overground, I’ve tried to join up what we’ve already got into a more coherent service and make a distinct “line” out of it.

Click to expand. 

With our industrial heritage there are a selection of old alignments to run down, which would bring a suburban service right into the heart of the communities it needs to serve, rather than creating a whole string of “park & rides” on the periphery. Throw in another 24km of completely new line to close up the gaps and I’ve run a complete ring of railway all the way around Birmingham and the Black Country, joining up with HS2 & the airport for good measure – without too much carnage by the way of development to work around/through/over/under.

Click to expand. 

While going around with a big circle on the outside, I found a smaller circle inside the city where the tracks already exist, and by re-creating a number of old stations I managed to get within 800m of two major hospitals. The route also runs right under the Birmingham Arena (formerly the NIA), fixing the stunning late 1980s planning error of building a 16,000 capacity arena right in the heart of a city centre, over the railway line, but without a station. (It does have two big car parks instead: lovely at 10pm when a concert kicks out, gridlocks really nicely.)

From that redraw the local network map and ended up with...

Click to expand. 

Compare this with the current broadly hub-and-spoke network, and suddenly you’ve opened up a lot more local journey possibilities which you’d have otherwise have had to go through New Street to make. (Or, in reality, drive.) Yours for a mere snip at £3bn.

If you want to read more, there are detailed plans and discussion here (signup required).